Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bound for the publisher....

Now I can have my life back...

I might even do some housework now...

Or not...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Glossary of terms:

Mainlining: Taking drugs intravenously

Flatlining: Showing no signs of brain activity - brain dead

Looming: Ominously close

Deadlining: Mainlining caffeine and feeling like you're flatlining because the deadline is looming!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

When tears aren't enough

Sometimes I lament the limitations of the English language, and this most often happens when I'm editing. Repetition is the scourge of the writer and part of the game is trying to use as many variations of a word that you can. It becomes a test, how many synonyms you can use with out it becoming obvious or sounding dumb. How much variety can you introduce in a seamless kind of a way.

I recall that in Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, by Peter Hoeg, they state that Eskimos have over twenty different words for snow. I would just love twenty different words for the noun I am grappling with right now, but there aren't and it's driving me nutty.

And what is the word causing me so much grief?


Yes, I'm shedding tears over tears.

Yes, you can cry, weep, sob, wail, howl, bawl, snivel, whimper, keen, blubber, or if you're feeling academic, lacrimate, or use a myriad of other words to describe shedding tears. Verbs ain't the problem. It's the noun.

Tear (n) teardrop.

That's the best my thesaurus could come up with. Tears are tears, that's it.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Hobbit

By JRR Tolkien

One of the pleasures of having kids is you get to read them bedtime stories, and you get to revisit your own favourites. It's a damned good excuse to let loose your inner child.

We have just finished The Hobbit, and it reminded me how much I loved this book, even more so than the Lord of the Rings. There's just something about Bilbo Baggins, Shire homebody turned adventurer (when his Took side kicks in). The boys loved this one and were begging for extra chapters each night - a sure sign of a great book.

One of the things I loved about this book, as the person on the business end is how lyrical it is and what a pleasure it is to read aloud. I think Tolkein must have read it out as he was writing, because the language flows and rolls around in your mouth in delicious ways. Even the songs are fun to tackle.

It was a stark contrast to another recent bedtime story book, a Famous Five title, by Enid Blyton. I found this cumbersome and clumsy to read and frequently stumbled over words. In fact, after reading one aloud I refuse to read any more. So the boys have polished the series off on their own. I don't think dear Enid tried the read aloud test.

Which brings me to my point - I do get to the point eventually, well, sometimes. It pays to read your work out loud, because if your tongue trips over the words, then the reader is going to find it clunky as well. It also helps you to pick up when you've been repetitive.

Of course reading The Hobbit has got the boys all interested in The Lord of The Rings - which I'm not going to read to them - it would take all year! They've also got all interested in elves, dwarfs and dragons. I took great delight in showing them some artists impressions of Smaug. Check out this one by Dunedin goldsmith and fellow fencing buddy Tony Williams.

Next we move away from hobbits and wizards and move onto volcanoes and strange slug like creatures in Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain...

Monday, June 14, 2010

In praise of paper

Today I printed off the latest incarnation of Bound for another round of editing. Naturally my printer decided to pack a sad and grind to a halt half way through because it had decided to run out of toner. Being of the Scottish persuasion I pulled the toner cartridge out, gave it a good shake and stuck it back in. Should be good for another couple of hundred pages at least.

When it comes to editing, I love paper. I need to be able to scribble, and cross out, to doodle and generally think with a pen. People tell me there are great ways of doing this on screen, with track changes, and Post it notes, but it just ain't the same. I like to be able to curl up on the sofa and scribble in margins. I like to be able to take it down to my favourite cafe, eat wicked things and drink excessive amount of caffeine while making little purple comments through out the text - I mean purple literally, not figuratively here! Purple, or green pen. Green is another favourite annotating colour from my pharmacist days. But the thing is, it is all done on paper.

Sure, when I sit down with my folderful of edits and put them into the computer I elaborate and extend and it often leads onto other things. But for that important first step in each editing process, for me, I can't go past paper.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Darkest Room

by Johan Theorin

Voted Best Crime Novel of 2008 by the Swedish Academy of Crime.

Katrine and Joakim Westin are starting their new life with their two young children at the old manor house at Eel Point. On the Swedish island of Oland, remote Eel Point has twin lighthouses that guard the coast. The area and the house is laden with history, not all of it good, which reaches out to the present.

Then tragedy strikes when Katrine is found, drowned off the rocks near the lighthouse.

Joakim can't accept Katrine's death, and can't even bring himself to tell his children where Mummy has really gone. He desperately tries to cling to what once was.

Tilda Davisson is a young police woman charged with manning the newly opened Police Station at nearby Marnas. Her work is cut out for her trying to get to the people behind a string of break-ins at summer homes, break-ins that seem to be getting more violent. She also becomes convinced that Katrine Westin's death was no accident.

Meanwhile, a storm is brewing, an arctic storm that rages on Christmas Eve, a night of local legend, when Eel Point, cut off by snow and ice will be visited by terror of all kinds.

Yes, yet another Scandinavian crime novel, and yes, yet another great read.

There were so many things I loved about this book. The story was carefully woven, with glimpses back into the past, and associations with the present gradually revealed throughout the course of the book, giving aha moments for the reader.

The build up of tension throughout was fantastic, with not only the characters and plot, but the weather and physical environment all accelerating towards a looming climax.

The novel also had supernatural elements which were very well done, and enhanced the story.

Clever novelist.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Murder in Mesopotamia

by Agatha Christie (1936)

Amy Leatheran has been employed to be nurse to Louise Leidner, the wife of a renowned archaeologist Dr Eric Leidner, on site at Tell Yarimaj. Mrs Leidner has a reputation as being nervy and difficult, and seems liked by the men of the expedition, but not by their wives. After observing life at the expedition house Nurse Leatheran comes to the conclusion her patient is just plain scared. Then when Louise is discovered brutally murdered, it becomes clear maybe it wasn't all histrionics and attention seeking after all.

Hercule Poirot just happens to be passing through nearby Hassanieh and is invited by the local law enforcement to come and solve what seems like an impossible crime.

I did enjoy this story. Christie captures well the tensions of the archaeological dig, complete with interfering, jealous wives, absent minded scientists, colourful locals and mysterious priests. Not to mention the beautiful victim with the fascinating and secret history.

One of the little things I loved most about this book, was the fact Agatha Christie enjoyed having a good hearted dig at fellow Queen of Crime Ngaio Marsh and her 1935 novel The Nursing Home Murder. (Well, I hope it was good hearted!)

In one scene Nurse Leatheran is reading a book...

"I was reading Death in a Nursing Home - really quite an exciting story - though I don't think the author knew much about the way nursing homes are run! At any rate I've never known a nursing home like that! I really felt inclined to write to the author and put him right about a few points.
When I put the book down at last (it was the red-haired parlourmaid and I'd never suspected her once!) and looked at my watch I was quite surprised to find it was twenty minutes to three!"

Ha!!! And no, it wasn't the red-haired parlourmaid, Agatha wasn't that mean.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


by Neil Cross

Captured starts with Kenny discovering he has only weeks to live because of a brain tumour. He can feel his body betraying him and things accelerating so he decides he needs to do right by some people he feels he let down in his life. (A more serious My Name is Earl scenario, but in a thriller setting)

He writes a list of names including his ex-wife Mary, with whom he still has a good relationship , and who is very concerned about him, but who he can't bring himself to tell yet. There are two people from an incident he witnessed as a young man, and then there is Callie Barton, his best friend at school when he was small, odd and unpopular.

When he tries to track down Callie, he finds out she had disappeared a few years earlier and never been found. Her husband, although initially suspected by the police, has been cleared of wrong doing.

Kenny can't accept that the husband, Johnathon had nothing to do with it and decides to take matters into his own hands.

I couldn't put this novel down, it was the kind of book where you could see each bad decision spiral out of control and it wrenched you along towards what you knew was not going to be a happy ending. You know Kenny isn't going to get out of it alive, in fact you question how rational he is, especially when he's experiencing seizures and other brain symptoms. But boy, you feel for him, and in fact you feel for all of the characters.

It's not for the faint hearted, there's a lot of blood and violence, but it's a great read. Highly recommended.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Death in a White Tie

By Ngaio Marsh (1938)

The debutante season is a highly competitive display of social standing in London. Debutantes and their chaperones plan grand events to ensure the young woman are properly brought out into the world.

It is a cut-throat world and into the mix a blackmailer is stalking prey. Chief Detective-Inspector Roderick Alleyn has planted his good friend Lord Robert (Bunchy) Gospell into the scene, but when Bunchy meets his untimely demise the race is on to find the blackmailer and see if murder has been added to the list of crimes.

The back cover blurb of my copy of the book includes this endorsement from Dashiell Hammett - "Ngaio Marsh's Death in a White Tie is the best detective story I have ever read..."

I have to confess I struggled with this book. I think it I got bogged down in all of the social stuff, getting overwhelmed trying to figure out my Halcut-Hacketts from my Carradoses, and a myriad of people in between. I did enjoy the book more towards the end when the pace picked up and everything was starting to unfold. I also enjoyed seeing more of Alleyn's relationship with Troy unfold.

It was okay, but it wasn't my favourite Ngaio Marsh book

Friday, June 4, 2010

From a writery high to heart break

How quickly life can change.

Friday morning I was winging my way back from the fantastic Murder They Wrote event in Wellington on a happy writery high, and then on Sunday morning I was reeling with shock at the death from SIDS of my dear little baby great-niece.

It has been a tough week.